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July: Philippines Nutrition Month

2017 Nutrition Month

2017 malnutrition

On the occasion of the 2017 Nutrition Month in the Philippines, launched by the National Nutrition Council for July, we want to focus on one of the problems against which Kito Onlus fights everyday, that is the importance of a proper nutrition. As you know, malnutrition and undernourishment are serious problems in the Philippines, where the situation is exacerbated by the frequent natural disasters that assiduously affect the nation. Phenomena such as earthquakes, typhoons, and hurricanes contribute negatively to food distribution, maintenance of hygiene standards, efficiency and quality of health services and level of education regarding both nutrition and non-nutrition issues. In addition, the most vulnerable parts of the population such as women and children are the most affected ones. For this reason, Kito has over the years been engaged in training activities for children and their families on the principles of proper nutrition, services of children and maternal care and nutrition programs.

A complex issue

Malnutrition and undernourishment are so complex problems that need to be addressed from many perspectives, there is a need for co-operation of expertise in various subjects, from access to food, nutrition education, water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition to disaster. In this regard, the government should focus on the root causes of chronic malnutrition, such as poverty. For example, a measure to counter them could be to ensure education and employment, preferably within the province of residence, to mothers and future mothers, since the family’s eating habits are affected by parental unemployment and long distances to work or irregular working shifts tend to be associated with suboptimal feeding practices. Given that undernutrition or poor nutrition causes difficulties in various aspects of an individual’s life such as health, psycho-physical well-being, economic productivity, and education, it is a very difficult situation to stop. For example, in the most serious cases of vitamin D deficiency, stunting may occur and, if not addressed, affects the physical and mental development of a child with irreversible consequences when a child reaches the age of two. For instance, children who are stunted in the first two years are also more likely to repeat grades, delay school entry or drop out of school.

Some data

The data presented by the Global Hunger Index 2016 developed by the Food Policy Research Institute shows that the Philippines are among the nations with the most severe indexes in the feed with a 19.9 score on a scale from 0 to 100. The proportion of undernourished in population is 13.5 (%). And, for children under the age of five, the situation is even more tragic: the prevalence of stunting is 30.3 (%) and the percentage of wasting is 7.9 (%). Obviously, malnutrition problems increase the risk of contracting diseases and in the most critical cases, 2.8% of children under the age of 5, it causes death due to complications.
According to a study conducted by the Inter-Agency Regional Analyst Network (RAN) and Action Against Hunger (ACF) on the basis of data collected in 2016 in the Philippines there are about 3.4 million starving children and more than 300,000 underweight, all under 5 years. Unfortunately, numbers increase if we talk about Filipino children experiencing from hunger and malnutrition, estimated at about 7 million.
In addition, poor nutrition contributes to the levels of economic productivity in the country. As mentioned earlier, undernourishment has also an economical cost in the country. According to 2016 Save the Children study “Cost of Hunger: Philippines”, the cost of undernourishment in the Philippines amounted to over 320 billion per year, equivalent to almost 3% of GDP.
Finally, quoting the World Bank report, the study said that “a 1% loss in adult height as a result of childhood stunting is linked to a 1.4% loss in economic productivity, making them earn 20% less as adults”.

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THE FIRST 1000 DAYS: fighting malnutrition in the Philippines

We have already explained in our blog that malnutrition in the Philippines is a widespread problem and worsen by the difficult natural conditions that negatively influence the quantity of available food. This is confirmed by recent data: according to the Global Hunger Index 2015, developed by the Food Policy Research Institute to monitor the level of hunger on a global scale, with a score of 20.1/100 the Philippines are among those countries that present one of the most worrying scenarios. Malnutrition is a multidimensional issue that can’t be solved through a single and simple solution. Nevertheless, this month an important field of intervention has been highlighted by the National Nutrition Council, agency of the filipino government. In the country July is the month dedicated to nutrition and the chosen theme is “First 1000 Days ni baby pahalagahan para sa malusog na kinabukasan – that means, “nurture your baby’s first 1000 days for an healthy future”. The first 1000 days of life, pregnancy included, are in fact a “window of opportunity”: it is during this time frame that the quality and quantity of food one receives influence the rest of their life in a positive or negative way, from a physical (immune system, predisposition to chronical diseases in the medium and long term) and mental (ability to learn, school performance) point of view. In the Philippines children’ malnutrition is a serious issue: one child in 3 suffers from stunting and some children do not reach the age of 5; others leave school and then become adults particularly vulnerable to diseases with negative consequences in the work sector. This leads to bad living conditions and poverty for the single individual but it also has repercussions at the national level in terms of economic development and prosperity. If the “first 1000 days” include the pregnancy period this is not by chance: it has been noted that malnourished mothers give birth to malnourished children. Kito Onlus operates trying to put an end to this vicious circle able to transcend generations: this is the reason why it focuses not only on children’ health but also on future mothers’ well-being and it promotes a policy of family planning through birth control.

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The problem of malnutrition in the Philippines

288c1cb17cca2e453f3412b31361-grandeDear Friends,

Malnutrition is  a term that refers to both undernutrition and  over nutrition. Undernutrition results from undernourishment, defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as “a level of food intake insufficient to meet dietary energy requirements”. Undernourished people constantly live on less than required number of calories and don’t receive essential vitamins and nutrients. It is the cause of death for more than 2.5 million children every year, and 1/3 of all deaths in children under the age of 5 in developing countries are linked to undernourishment.

There’s still a lot to be done when it comes to the big problem of hunger and malnutrition among children in the Philippines. A Social Weather Stations poll also found that 43% or an estimated 9.3 million families consider themselves food-poor or are unable to feed themselves the right quality and quantity of food. What exacerbates the problem is the frequent occurrence of disasters that leave many victims and survivors alike hungry, like happen especially in the areas of Eastern Visayas where Super Typhoon Yolanda hit in November 2013. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) together with the World Food Programme (WFP) are working in projects such us #ZeroHunger and the #HungerProject in order to fight the phenomenon.

Kito Onlus, thanks to the work of the Kito-Health in San Fernando, is taking care of the wellness of the children of the community, for example with the distribution of Vitamins A, essential for the right grow and development of the body, and the constant monitoring of their weight and height. Hunger can be stopped, food security must become a priority!

February in the Philippines: oral health month

In the Philippines, February is the Oral Health Month. It is an annual celebration since 1951 but it is only since 2004 that it is celebrated for a month-long, following Presidential Proclamation No. 559 signed by the then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Oral health represents today a widespread problem in the Philippines, and last year the Philippine Dental Association recommended local administrations to prioritize oral health among other health issues. Indeed, the majority of the Filipino population goes to the dentist only when experiencing pain, meaning when it is too late for prevention, and the 78% suffers from gum diseases, according to a study published by the Department of Health in 2016. For children the issues are relevant as well, considering that a toothache is one of the most common causes of absenteeism from school and that a wrong oral hygiene can lead throughout the years to worse diseases.

This year the theme for Oral Health Month is “Ngipin Ay Alagaan Mula Sa Sinapupunan Para Sa Magandang Ngiti Hanggang Katandaan“: it focuses on maternity, differentiating itself from the previous editions when the focus was on the oral health of children. This time it has been chosen to give importance to a good oral hygiene and nutrition during pregnancy, in such a way that future mothers will also become role models for their children in this field.

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Nutrition, the health of future mothers, the importance of oral health have always been topics dear to Kito Onlus, which has been organizing training and missions for years to fight malnutrition and promote good alimentation and correct oral hygiene. And it keeps on doing it, as the graphic below shows, reporting the main sectors in which the Kito Health Unit of San Fernando la Union has operated in 2017.

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World Children’s Day

World Children’s Day takes place on November 20, the day when, in 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child. It was again on November 20 the day in which the UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The latter is the most widely ratified human rights treaty.

The point of this day is that of encouraging children to stay and play together, recognizing and appreciating the differences existing among them. It is also an occasion for the governments of the world to pay particular attention to the welfare of children. According to Unicef’s data, there are currently 385 millions of children living in conditions of extreme poverty, 264 millions of kids and young people do not attend school and 5,6 millions of children under 5 years of age die every year due to causes that could have been avoided. And Kito Onlus knows though direct experience how indeed school frequency can be put at risk because of environmental conditions and how malnutrition is still today a widespread issue in many parts of the world.

Apart from the necessary reflections upon the conditions of children and adolescents in the world, November 20 is supposed to be a fun day, made by children for children, who should take over the social media in order to make their voice heard. Regarding this, on November 16 in Italy Unicef organized a kids’ takeover at the Chamber of Ministers, within an event called “Designing policies for children and adolescents: a Country made for children”.

If you’d like to know more about children’s aspirations, the events taking place today and the celebrities and world leaders involved, you just need to use the hashtags #KidsTakeOver, #WorldChildrensDay and #KidsTakeOverSchools!

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Kids from the Banilad Elementary School in Pinamalayan. Photo by Architect Anna Orlando, Kito Onlus’ Field Assistant.

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